Rice Football squares off with UTSA this weekend. UTSA Insider JJ Perez tells us what to expect from the Roadrunners on Saturday.
1. What’s the plan for UTSA at quarterback this week?
It has been tumultuous at quarterback for the Roadrunners this season. The day one starter Frank Harris suffered a knee injury in the third game of this 2020 campaign. Since then, it’s been up and down. At various points this season, UTSA has gone through all four of their experienced signal callers.
Josh Adkins suffered a broken collar bone against BYU. Lowell Narcisse suffered a break in his leg against Army. And Jordan Weeks was unavailable to play in the two games prior to last week. Harris returned to the starting role several weeks ago. He’ll get the start this week against Rice.
Last week against FAU, Harris and the entire offense struggled at times. Weeks came into the game late. It’s likely UTSA will stick with Harris for much of the game. But with Weeks going through a normal practice workload for the first time is several games, you have to wonder how much rope Harris will have if the offense continues to struggle.
2. Which UTSA offense will Rice see? The One that scored 50 against Texas State or the one that scored 3 against FAU?
UTSA offense has struggled in the last two of the last three games. FAU stacked the box last week and didn’t let All-American running back Sincere McCormick get going. The Roadrunners were forced to try to pass the ball the down field and they simply could not connect on any of those attempts. They were close on a few tries. Both Harris at QB and the wide receivers would tell you that they should have landed a few big passing this past week.
That, along with the play of the offensive line, is the difference is the up and down play of the offensive unit. Last week’s game vs FAU was probably the worst offensive performance of the season. While I don’t look for UTSA to put up the numbers they did early in the season, I do believe we’ll see an offensive uptick this week.
3. What’s been the biggest reason for UTSA’s successes on defense this year?
It starts with the defensive line. That unit has been dominant at times this season. The Roadrunners play 3-4 base scheme. UTSA rotates those three down linemen aggressively. And that unit has been able to apply pressure and stop the run. That’s allowed the linebackers to stay home and do their thing.
The biggest surprise of the defensive is the pass coverage in the secondary. Early in the season, that was the biggest weakness of the team. Through eight games, UTSA’s defensive backfield has improved and are now solid against the pass.
Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix came to UTSA from Mississippi. His pedigree and experience as a coordinator has been noticeable this season. And his defensive unit has adopted his hard-nose demeanor.
4. Following the hot start, UTSA has lost four of five. What’s the confidence level in the program right now?
Last week was a big opportunity for UTSA to take the next step against FAU, the defending league champion. But it didn’t happen. The Roadrunners’ schedule the last five games have been a gauntlet. UTSA hung tough against top opponents. And they even won a game against La Tech they probably wouldn’t have won in the past.
The team is also banged up. Playing eight straight games without a bye week has taken a toll. So while the record isn’t as good as they may want, the 4-4 record is probably an accurate reflection of where they are right now, which is a decent team that has done some good stuff and done some bad stuff, and are still adapting and learning under a first-year coaching staff.
5. What’s your prediction for the game? Can UTSA extend their winning streak over Rice?
UTSA has won five straight matchups against Rice. But this series has always felt more close than all-time series records indicate. The Roadrunners and Owls have played some classics throughout the years. UTSA has played more games but are also more injured while Rice is more fresh but would probably like a little more game reps than they’ve had at this point in the season. I think we’ll be in store for a barn burner Saturday. I think it’s too close to call but I will predict UTSA wins a one score game.